ちえりのドキ★ドキ湯煙ぶらり旅 (Chieri no Doki Doki Yukemuri Burari Tabi)
I'm not too much of a fan of typical horizontal or vertical scrolling shmups, so this was a welcome surprise. You control Chieri, who from what I can discern of the story jumps into a draining hot spring steam bath after her father gets sucked down the drain. Or something. Anyway, the cave is full of red dots which you use to fling around on her pet's tail to avoid falling into the water and to fight the enemies with a quirky inverted control scheme. There's not much in terms of content, but it's sheer, simple arcade fun. I hear this was inspired by an earlier PC doujin game called Wire Robo (second picture), but I couldn't get that to run on my computer. It's a bit hard to find since it doesn't have an English title, but you find the Japanese titles at the very end of the list on the marketplace.
What looks like a T-1000 running through the world of Rez, Pepsi Man-style is pretty much the 3D equivalent of those high speed auto-running platformers you see frequently as flash games (there are a few exambles on the XBLIG marketplace, too), but in this case that means a whole more dimension of fun. In each curse you have to collect a set number of batteries before reachingthe finish line, which starts out as a perfectly straight-forward task, but soon things get more complicated with branching paths, arrows on the floor that make the robot go faster or slower, various obstacles and sometimes even a change of direction. Sometimes the programming makes things a bit awkward; when you fall down it often feels as if you've glitched out of the level, but eventually the game will register your failure. This is one of the only two games in this post that go for the higher price of 240 MS points.
And yet another Japanese game, though this time with a title in Latin characters. Nyan Tech's levels are full of letter-labeled colored platforms, which all correspond with the buttons on the control pad they react to. Some are activated as toggles, some by holding the button. The fact that they can be linked with other vital inputs like running and jumping makes things very interesting in the later levels, although first you have to put up with a very slow difficulty curve and many stages that feel introductory. Still one of the most conceptually interesting puzzle platformers I've seen, though.
More games after the jump...
OK, this is not a real recommendation, given that it's much too short for being on the highest price tier (240 MS points). Space Milkman doesn't even try to hide how much it owes to Super Mario and employs dozens of the series' tropes, but it has its share of own ideas and almost every stage tries some different interesting concept. Aside from a penguin dive, which Nintendo appears to have stolen for New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you can pick up powerups to paint the adorable little space penguin(?) in different colors the red coat allows him to throw blocks which stay in place as temprary platforms as soon as they hit a wall or floor, the yellow one allows him to attack enemies with banana projectiles. The weirdest part is the "story", though: In short cutscenes alien signalizes with symbol language in speech bubbles how sick he is of meat and how he wants to get milk. Then he proceeds to collect cookies and muffins as pointless collectibles in the stages, before a cow awaits at the end. Also features some of the greatest retro sound effects ever.
If your indie game has a ninja on the "cover," then you've already made sure that I'll at least download the trial, but Ninja 360° even got me to shell out the whooping 80 points for the full version. It's not as fast-paced as I usually prefer my ninja games to be, but it's a neat little puzzler where gravity is always oriented towards the last axis you've stood on solid ground. Running along curves turns the world around, and you have to use that quirk as an advantage to collect all the coins in every stage.
Finally, I want to give a shout-out to Platform Hack, although I can't really describe what draws me back into it. The controls and mechanics feel as amateurish as the graphics look, and the RPG-style upgrading system is completely imbalanced. This is a true homebrew experience, but somehow... it's fun!